July 18-20, 2024 | St. Louis, MO

Pre-Conference Session with Donald Maass

How to Build Iconic Characters

Some characters are merely protagonists, others are heroes or heroines. What makes the difference? Beyond that, what lifts heroes and heroines above even greatness to make them iconic? Can that be that accomplished when characters are “ordinary”, dark, different or non-human? Iconic, enduring characters are made not born, and this master class by advanced fiction craft teacher Donald Maass shows how.

Continuing Sessions

Each continuing session meets three separate times during the conference, for a total of almost 6 hours of content. The classes are designed that each session builds upon the previous.

Slaying the Seven-Headed Story Beast with Allen Arnold

The mythic Seven-Headed Story Beast has taken out countless writers. Each head represents a different lie perfectly crafted to defeat the heart of a novelist. In this ongoing class, Allen reveals powerful ways to overcome these lies and defeat the beast. Bonus – attendees receive seven temporary tattoos (one for each defeated head of the beast)!

Creating Plot-Forward & World-Specific Characters with Shannon Dittemore

1. Heroes and Villains 2. Archetypes and Tropes, and 3. Crews and Creatures
Memorable characters pull the reader into your story world with the promise of adventure, meaning, connection, and escape. The best characters do this while showing off your storyworld and moving your story forward simultaneously. By looking at some of our favorite stories and practicing together, we’ll learn to craft heroes, villians, side characters, crews, and fantastical creatures that do just that.

Indie Publishing: An Author’s Guide to Self-publishing Success with Julie Hall

A crash course in the art and business of successful independent publishing. In this three-part continuing session, you’ll learn how to create a marketable manuscript, self-publish it, and build a passionate fan base that drives passive revenue.

You’ll learn the essential skills needed to make it as an Indie Author, and how it compares to traditional and hybrid publishing. Whether you’re new or experienced, this course will give you the knowledge, foundation, and tools to be successful through independent publishing, so you can decide if it’s right for you.

Session 1:
Indie Publishing: The Business of Writing, Indie vs Trad., Editing, Building a Team, and Making Money.

Session 2:
Indie Publishing: Tools for Formatting, Covers, and Distribution (ebook, print, audio, kickstarter, direct sales).

Session 3:
Indie Publishing: Launch Strategies, Marketing, Ads, & Social Media.

Unlock the Forgotten Craft of Self-Editing with Nadine Brandes

Editing your novel doesn’t have to be like climbing Mt. Doom or even as precise as destroying the Death Star. But the victory in completing it can be just as sweet. We’re going to dive headfirst into all things self-editing, but WITHOUT overwhelm, confusion, rewriting, or perfectionism! This is not a class on grammar. We’re getting into the nitty gritty of your story: your plot, characters, storyworld, pacing, magic system…the big hitters…and how to fix them. And we’re doing it in class.

In this put-pen-to-paper continuing session we will cover what you as the author need to know about editing versus what you can leave up to the publisher or freelance editor. You’ll apply a hands-on edit to your first 50 pages (so that it can really impress agents and publishers), and you’ll create a personalized and manageable plan to edit YOUR novel without hitting burnout. Come prepared to revise your current manuscript (no matter if it’s completed or still in drafting phase!) And remember: If you can write your book, you can edit it, too!

Some details these sessions will cover:
– How and where to start editing your book
– The only 3 steps to self-editing that you’ll ever need
– How to create an editing plan to re-use book after book after book
– Editing-as-you-go…where does it fit in?
– How to edit your story’s first 50 pages so they stand out
– Editing different genres & for different age groups
– Editing vs Drafting: the crucial mindset shift
– Content edit? Line edit? Copy edit? What’s the author’s job?
– Breaking down the road blocks that keep us from editing our own stories
– Freelance editors, critique partners, beta readers…oh my!

Teen Track with Kara Swanson

The Teen Track is a dedicated 3-session set of classes for our authors aged 13-17. This group will meet for a total of nearly 6 hours of teaching and have a unique opportunity to meet other young writers in a smaller setting than the other conference classes. Teen Track content is designed to be both age appropriate and challenging to help young writers set and meet their next goals.

The Fundamentals of a Standout Novel

Do you long for training that takes you seriously as a young writer? This continuing track will give you the strategies and tools you need to craft a project that will stand out from an agent’s slush pile.

Teen writers can accomplish great things when they have the right support and training. After getting published as a teen and winning multiple Realm Awards, Kara Swanson is prepared to help you do just that, alongside professional editor Katie Phillips.

In their first session, Kara and Katie will break down the five components of a standout novel — and how better understanding these core pieces will revolutionize not only your book pitches, but elevate your novels to come. This interactive session will include a workshop segment to help you develop your own standout novel concept and book pitch.

From Good Idea — to Book Contract

You know you want to get published — now what? How do you even go about achieving those goals?

In this next session, Kara Swanson and Katie Phillips will focus on an overview of the publishing industry as a whole.

They will take you from the first step of developing a standout story concept, and guide you through the mysterious, enchanted forest that is the world of publishing. They’ll touch on both traditional publishing and independent publishing. This session will be interactive, including an extensive Q&A session. Their goal is for you to walk away with a better understanding of how the publishing industry works — and clear next steps for you to utilize, both at this conference and beyond.

Crafting an Unforgettable Pitch & Professional First Impression

We believe you have something important to say — and a unique voice to use!

It can be easy to feel intimidated or uncertain when talking about your story as a young writer, let alone when pitching to an agent or editor. In our final session, Kara Swanson and Katie Phillips will dive into the key elements that make your story, your vantage point, and your perspective — fresh and unique. Then, they will give you the tools and help you workshop the best ways to create a professional and memorable first impression.

Over the course of these three classes, Kara and Katie will teach you the high-level strategies you can practice now to craft a novel that stands out not only to a publisher or agent — but also, someday, on a bookshelf.

Elective Sessions

Classes taught by Rowena Kuo

Not Just Books: Careers on the Publishing Industry

Whether you are a book author waiting to get published or want a career in the publishing industry but not sure where to start, find out what other jobs may be available to you. If you need a little extra income or would like to survive on your writing skills, there are options open to you to develop and prosper your professional publishing career.

Mastering Realistic Dialogue

What are the vital components to writing engaging dialogue between your characters? From books to screenplays, effective dialogue factors into the success of each scene, delivers the message you want portrayed, and guides the overall tone as your story unfolds. Discuss the methods, vernacular, and culture behind the motives of your characters and how these impact the relationship between your characters and your reader. Utilize the top 10 traits that can captivate your audience through the emotions embedded within dialogue exchange and distinguish your writing from what is ordinary to what can be considered profound.

Classes taught by Steve Nedvidek

Session 1: The Graphic Novel Journey
When three middle-aged dads decided to do something different and creative, outside of their full-time jobs, they were in for the experience of a lifetime. Steve Nedvidek, co-creator of IDW’s award-winning, alt history, adventure trilogy shares their journey from dream to reality, how they worked on something that was totally new, and what they would (and wouldn’t) do again. This one hour long session helps you consider the basics of putting a project like this together, and hopes to inspire creators of any kind that there is always a way to make a dream happen. If you’ve EVER thought of creating a graphic novel, this talk is for you!
Session 2: The Nuts and Bolts of The Jekyll Island Chronicles
Steve Nedvidek, co-creator of The Jekyll Island Chronicles, pulls apart their process, diving into the details of the project, engaging the audience with Q&A, and sharing where their project is now and what they hope happens as their property, The Jekyll Island Chronicles, is positioning itself for a television series run. Session 2 is a one hour continuation of Session 1, and gets to much of the magic of HOW this action-packed, historical fiction trilogy came to be.

Classes taught by Donald Maass

Mastering Immersive POV

Many novels are written as if they are a record of visual events. While that is in part true, gripping novels capture story experience on many levels. That begins with mastering POV which ranges beyond what characters only see and encompasses everything that they observe, think and sense. Learn the methods in this practical workshop.

Universal Worlds

What makes a speculative world feel like ours? Worldbuilding brings us what is different, but what remains is the need for relatability. Learn what makes a story world one that anyone can relate to in this hands-on workshop.

Classes taught by Carla Hoch

Fight Scenes: From Practical to Tactical

Need to see the fight in real life? Learn the basics of fighting through live demonstration and hands-on instruction, including hand-to-hand fighting and weapons basics and open Q&A. This class is audience driven and never the same class twice

Fight Scenes 101

Students will learn to write a fight scene from start to finish with FightWrite’s quick and dirty guide. Bring your fight scenes!

Classes taught by Amy Michelle Carpenter

Horror Happy-Ever-After Endings – Have your Red Velvet Cake with some Ice Cream 

When it comes to Horror everyone thinks of terror, screams, and gut-wrenching endings. When it comes to horror sad endings seem to be the norm, but, endings can be happy. Of course, someone will have to die, after all, you can’t make red velvet cake without a little red die ..but with the right recipe of hope, you come out with something really unexpectedly addictive. This is an exploration of happy moments in horror, how to intertwine brightness into a darker story, and how to successfully help a character conquer their fears in horror or other dark genres for a happy ending.

Classes taught by Lisa Mangum

Nice Story! Thanks, It Has P.O.C.K.E.T.S.

Whether you are starting out on a first draft or laboring through your sixtieth revision, Lisa Mangum has 7 storytelling elements you should have in your story that can help elevate and strengthen your writing. And, luckily, they’ll all fit in your POCKETS (Promises, Obstacles, Choices, (K)onsequences, Empathy, Tension, and Surprises).

Top 5 Things I’ve Learned from 25 Years of Editing

Lisa Mangum has been in the publishing business for more than twenty-five years, and she’s learned a thing or two about both the practical side of storytelling (writing, revising, and editing) and the personal side (stress-management, honoring your heart, and finding your voice). Join her for a conversation to talk about her top 5 bits of advice that might help you on your journey as a writer, editor, and creator.

Class taught by Steve Laube

A Theology of Science Fiction

An exploration of the history of science fiction and its attempt to answer the BIG questions. Who is God? What Does it Mean to be Human? Who is Jesus? Why Does it Matter?

Classes taught by James Hannibal

From Story to Game

How can you take your story to the next level? How can you bring your readers deeper into your sci-fi or fantastical realm? James will show you what it takes to develop your story into a card game, board game, or role-playing game.

Crowdfunding Craziness

After three successful crowdfunding campaigns, including one that launched during Realm Makers 2021, James is ready to share his experience with you. Learn about the various crowdfunding platforms, the keys to success, and what to expect during the campaign.



Panel Discussions–subject to updates

The AI Explosion: How does it impact fiction writers?

Panelists TBD

The Advertising Maze

Moderated by Avily Jerome

Panelists: JJ Johnson, James Hannibal, and more

Discover Your Publishing Personality

Moderated by Amy Michelle Carpenter

Panelists: Janeen Ippolito, Jamie Foley, Heidi Lyn Burke, Shannon Dittemore, Steve Rzasa

Working with Your Editor

Moderated by Kristen Stieffel

Panelists: Lisa Mangum, Rowena Kuo, Andrew Winch, Nadine Brandes…maybe more


Post-Conference Session  (9:00 a.m. Sunday, July 21st)

Come to the Dark Side

Narrative Storytelling For Video Games

No matter what the medium, story still is, and always will be, the real gold in all we do. Right now, Video Games are blowing up and we can barely keep up with writing at all, much less good, quality writing by believing, spiritual mature authors. We Need You! (and we have Hotpockets)